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    World Cup organizers fear fans cannot afford travel if pandemic causes recession

    May 21, 2020
    PHOTO: AP

    ORGANIZERS of the World Cup in Qatar are concerned that many fans won't be able to afford traveling to the tournament in 2022 if the coronavirus pandemic causes a global recession.

    Many countries around the world are expected to suffer historically deep recessions as a result of the virus and the associated lockdown restrictions.

    "It's all right now unclear — we are entering into a recession," World Cup organizing committee secretary general Hassan Al Thawadi said Wednesday. "There's always the concern about the global economy and the ability of fans to be able to afford traveling and afford coming and participating and celebrating the World Cup."

    Sporting events have also been postponed, including soccer's European Championship that was due to start next month but has been moved until 2021.

    Qatar still hopes six of its eight stadiums will be completed by the end of this year despite the COVID-19 disruption. The World Cup is scheduled to be played in November-December 2022 — rather than its usual June-July slot — which provides more time for the resumption of international travel.

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    "By 2022 I'm optimistic that we would overcome this pandemic as a human race collectively," Al Thawadi said on a Leaders in Sport live stream. "It will be one of the early opportunities for all of us to celebrate together, to engage together, to bring people together."

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    Qatar is promising the World Cup will be affordable for fans but the tiny gas-rich nation has been affected by economic activity shutting down in so many countries. State-owned Qatar Airways, a World Cup sponsor, has said it will cut jobs as the global aviation industry has been largely grounded.

    "We are still committed to ensuring that we create a balance between an affordable World Cup," Al Thawadi said, "... and a price range that is affordable for fans and a price range that is workable, functional for the industry, for service providers, for the supply chain that is responsible for delivering the World Cup."

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    For three years, Qatar has had to adjust tournament preparations to cope with the economic and diplomatic boycott of the country by Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates over claims it supports extremist groups in the region. Qatar denies the allegations.

    "It was a blessing in disguise to a large extent because it forced us to be self-reliant and forced us to look inward," Al Thawadi said of the boycott. "This forced us to become much more resilient ... which made us much-better prepared to deal with COVID."

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      PHOTO: AP
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